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Growing Up Sucks

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Little Sally has never been the same since then...

"Some days, I sit there in my office, looking out at you kids on the playground and I think, 'They don't know how good they got it. In a few years, they're all going to be grownups like me and all those good times will just be memories for them, too.' So go ahead. Put a whoopie-cushion in my chair. Cover my carpet with fake vomit. Make fun of my big, saggy butt. But don't you ever say I don't care about summer vacation, 'cause those memories are the last part of childhood I got left."
Principal Prickly, Recess: School's Out

Several works involving children as the protagonists insist on reminding the viewers that childhood doesn't last forever. Not only will this be implied throughout the show's narrative, the Kid Hero themselves will probably be all too aware of this fact, and refer to it openly, with varying degrees of acceptance or dread.

In addition, this will probably feature as a plot point. The concept of "childhood's end" will probably be clearly illustrated, with the now-grown-up character losing something that was fundamental to their happiness as a child. On shows based mainly in reality, this will probably take the form of the protagonist's group of friends going their separate ways after graduation. The child may lose his guardians, Mons, or even his powers, if these all come with a time limit or are directly linked to his status as a child. For example, children are assumed to be wide-eyed, curious, innocent and trusting; adults are usually portrayed as pragmatic, cynical and set in their ways.

Wistful Amnesia is often part of this growing-up process as well. To maintain the Masquerade, various magical/scientific agencies will ensure that the hero remembers nothing of the adventures he had as a kid...or of the allies he made and The Mentor/guardian who looked after them, often delivering a less than idealistic moral on the transience of friendship. Viewers may end up feeling they've been handed an Esoteric Happy Ending.

In some works, this is invoked as the reason why Adults Are Useless; they have forgotten how hellish being a child can be, and blithely ignore all the attempts by the child to tell them, because they have convinced themselves that it was better then.

If the episode/chapter/title is "Growing Pains" that's your warning this trope is in full effect.

Occasionally a child character will get to live as an adult for a while, Freaky Friday-style, taking full advantage of their increased power and ability to make their own rules. Inevitably the Aesop emerges that adults can't do whatever they want, but that sort of story will often exaggerate the down sides of growing up to drive the point home; the character will be stuck working at a soul-crushing job under a Bad Boss, and most of their time outside of work will be taken up with household chores. It also becomes broken when you realize that not only do kids have rules and choices made for them (you can choose a job you want and even quit for whatever reason—but you're forced to stay in school when you're younger and cannot quit) but they also have (often parentally-enforced) responsibilities like adults do (school, homework, pre-selected chores, etc.)

May result in a viewer having a "Screw that!" moment, leading to selective Fanon Discontinuity.

Happens a great deal in the real world when someone leaves adolescence and their teen-age years behind and realizes that while childhood is not always a picnic, things are different when mom and dad aren't paying their bills anymore: they have to find a place to live, buy health insurance, work at a job they may not like in order to have money in the bank, and otherwise deal with all the things that made their parents so uncool and boring. One of the first steps into being a full-fledged adult is realizing all the sacrifices your parents had to make and the insane hoops they had to jump through to keep a roof over your head and food on the table...

Compare Virgin Power, where possessing easily-lost innocence of a different sort grants supernormal abilities. This is also paired with Psychosexual Horror as it also involves themes of sexual development and sexual activities.

See also Milestone Birthday Angst, Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!, Kid Hero, Coming of Age Story, Competence Zone, Death by Newbery Medal, and Bittersweet 17. Contrast Dangerous 16th Birthday which uses the advent of adulthood as the start of an adventure... unless you just want to be normal — then growing up still sucks. Contrast Not Growing Up Sucks and Old Flame Fizzle.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Gohan is one of the most powerful characters when his "hidden power" is unlocked. Later in the Buu Saga he is terrible at first and cannot beat Buu even after his "special training". Vegeta lampshades this by claiming "he was stronger when he was a kid". Though that was mainly because before that point, he neglected training in favor of studying for college.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Ed becomes furious when he finds out that Mustang did not inform him about Hughes' death. Aunt Pinako tells him that he's acting like a child for complaining about it and thinking that Mustang kept Ed in the dark out of spite.
  • In the Sakura Wars (2000), Sakura is reminded that as she grows up, her "spirit power" will fade and she will have to pass her beloved and long-fought-for sword to the next generation. The said reduction in "spirit power" is later the cause of Sumire's retirement, as well as Ratchet's withdrawal from field duty in the beginning of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. Though the second OVA (written before Tomizawa Michie's temporary retirement from the franchise) implied it could be 10 or more years for Sakura, and she would be too old to marry at that point... so it's not exactly tied with childhood. In fact, it seems to be more about using up your powers (as Ratchet already had a long history of service on three continents and Sumire was the first member of the team to ever pilot a suit of spirit armor).
  • Azumanga Daioh does this consistently, starting with the cast's entry into high school and ending with their graduation, when the girls set off for different colleges. It's more optimistic than other examples though — Chiyo-chan notes "Even though we've graduated... we're still together. All of us."
  • Older, pre-Sailor Moon Magical Girl series seemed to imply that their adventures and fantastic powers were simply metaphors to give them the strength to become... normal Japanese women and wives, who naturally shouldn't have powers greater than their husbands so they give them up. This seems to have created enormous cognitive dissonance, and starting with Sailor Moon most recent magical girls avert this, if they even bring up growing up at all. This would, however, help explain some of the more questionable bits of My-Otome... Notably inverted by Nanoha who, instead of giving up her powers and becoming a normal person, leaves the planet to become a legend. By the time of Force they had to take "Girl" out of the title since by that point she's a 25-year-old mother (via adoption) and still on the front lines. The fact that she has a relationship with an equally-powered woman might be of influence. One older magical girl that defied this, made in response to the advancement of women in business and politics at the time, was Magical Princess Minky Momo, whose power itself was to "grow up" into a competent career-woman and getting to do various amazing feats she couldn't do as a child, although the transformation was only temporary.
  • The .hack games and animes have tried to put this Aesop into the mix, in a manner that's somewhat painful. The original series goes into detail how the AIs are people too but then adds that previous protagonists have "grown past The World" and have essentially abandoned them to later genocide. Hey, they had to go to college.
  • Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann could undergo an example of this, even though he obviously gets adjusted to the ever-changing world around and the changes within himself. Name ONE instance where someone isn't affected even a little bit by the death of a mentor!
  • According to many anime the reward for a young woman "growing out of" the Pseudo-Romantic Friendship, a relationship built on years of trust and communication, is that she has become mature enough to be with an Accidental Pervert that she has little in common with.
    • A striking example is Mahoraba, where Tamami loses her battle for the affections of Kozue to Shiratori. Sure, Shiratori is not really a pervert, but still...
  • Kurau in Kurau Phantom Memory spent most of her youth being taken over by her Rynax entity. After the disappearance of her Rynax, the human Kurau is faced with leading a more sedate life as a grown-up. She doesn't mind that much, but her fond memories of her Rynax-filled past still give it all a melancholic slant.
  • In Simoun all inhabitants of the planet Daikuuriku are born female and have to choose their gender when they're 17 years old by going to the "Spring". Since there is a war raging, the priestesses who pilot the Simoun aircraft are exempt from this, since once they have visited the Spring they will lose their ability to fly. Some of the characters take this as an opportunity to stay a "maiden" as long as possible, but in the end everybody has to undergo the transformation. A few manage to escape it though: Limone and Dominura end up in the past, Yun became the new high priestess and Aer and Neviril Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • A fairly common Fan interpretation of the first four (especially the first two) Digimon is that the chosen children must have some degree of innocence, but that they cannot get through the series without losing it.
    • In fact, this is pretty overt in the second series - the older children at first drift away from their lives in the Digiworld because they're too busy with things like bands and school that they deem to be more important. In fact, rather heartbreakingly, the villain Oikawa is motivated almost entirely by his all-consuming desire to enter the Digiworld and have Digimon himself - presented as an attempt to become a child again, or at least reclaim the feeling he had when playing with his friend as a kid.
      • on the other hand the series Distant Finale presents all the Chosen Children, now adults with children of their own but still maintaining their Digimon companions and visiting the Digiworld, and at least the Spanish dub suggests that ALL humans have Digimon companions, no matter age.
    • Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna shows this to be a quite a literal example; it confirms that those chosen to become DigiDestined have to be children in order for Digivices to function. Once they reach adulthood, that power ends up fading and the partnership between them and the Digimon will ultimately have to end.
  • Shugo Chara!:
    • Used somewhat in an episode. After Ikuto breaks an X-Egg (a negative Heart's Egg), he goes on to say he doesn't feel bad about breaking Heart's Eggs and children's dreams because, as they grow older, children begin to think more realistically about their dreams and deem them impossible to succeed, ultimately giving up their dreams and losing their Heart's Egg (which is the place all people's dreams, wishes, and their 'would-be-selves' are located) and growing up to be dull, dreary, and tired faced adults who are living unhappy and unfulfilling lives.
    • And another example of this series that is hinted at, but not explicitly stated: once a child whose Heart's Egg has given birth to a guardian character grows into an adult who will be able to reach their dreams, their guardian character will go back inside their Heart's Egg to slumber because now the child has the ability and encouragement to become who they want to be on their own. While not 100% negative, it is sad to see a guardian character, who most kids become very close to and grow to love, say goodbye.
    • Not just hinted - a later story arc has Amu face this prospect after meeting Nikaidou's chara again. When asked if she doesn't want to grow up, she states that she doesn't really know.
  • Bleach:
    • The full version of the song included in Bleach's Ending 18 seems to indicate that growing up can be difficult and isn't the most important thing, but it has to be done.
    • In the filler arc, Momo Hinamori inverts this. She looks forward the day she grows up, because that's when she could stop being naive and prevents herself from getting crushed in case someone dear to her betrays her.
    • A review, The Fall of Bleach, brought up an interesting point that the series (least up to the end of the Soul Society arc) is a metaphor of this as Ichigo and his friends fights against the rather odd rules of Soul Society in the way a teenager enters into adulthood and experience things foreign to them.
  • Naruto plays with this trope. Shortly after Naruto returns to Konoha in Part II, when Konohamaru shows him his perverted ninjutsu, he tells him that he's not a kid anymore and that he shouldn't use jutsu like that. Sakura is impressed, but also a little sad that Naruto is not the same person he was before... until Naruto then suggests that he's developed more effective perverted ninjutsu. While Naruto and many of his friends (especially Shikamaru) appear to be growing up in Part II, Naruto is personally determined not to grow up in a way that requires abandoning his ideals, like his commitment to bring Sasuke back.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena is a Coming of Age Story where "growing up" apparently includes enduring terrible pain, sacrificing yourself for your best friend, then being erased from existence. However, the series is very open-ended, and often interpreted as a subversion or inversion where much of the conflict comes from refusal to grow up and face your emotional problem or attempting to grow up in ways that are actually very immature (mostly on the assumption of Sex as a Rite-of-Passage). Utena experience also may have let her Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, while Anthy abandoning her abusive brother and Ohtori Academy to "grow up" and follow Utena is a definite step up.
  • Generally the entire third season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is about this, at least in the original version: most of the bad characters initially tell Judai that he can't win because he doesn't have the "darkness in his heart" associated with growing up and facing pain and loss. Judai goes on to win anyway, but when his games result in the loss of friends, he has a Heroic BSoD and becomes the Supreme King, and he's never quite the same. Some of these character arcs are retained in season 4, where a Darker and Edgier Judai shies away from his friends, but is eventually forced to battle again when his friends' memories and, eventually, entire existences are erased. We then get it hammered home in his final duel with Yugi, where he remembers to always have fun dueling no matter how old you get.
  • In Honey and Clover, the main characters go through a lot of spiritual growing pains throughout their late adolescence and early adulthood, having to make tough decisions along the way. Most of them appear to wind up rather well, but the main character is left with bittersweet feelings about having to let go of the last remains of his youth.
  • Hidamari Sketch:
    • After the girls start watching part of the new version of Lovely Chocolat, their old favorite TV show, Sae notes that they're still watching it even though they're in high school (and are therefore supposed to be out of the Fleeting Demographic). Upon hearing this, Hiro's hair falls flat, and she laments about how growing up is no fun.
    • This trope was Played for Drama in the episode Hiro in the fourth season, when Hiro practically fell into a bout of depression because of this. Particularly, she found herself not wanting to graduate.
  • The girls from Strike Witches are at their magical peak between 12-18 years old. At around 20, they no longer have the necessary power to put up an effective shield and are usually forced to retire lest they become a liability in battle. Needless to say that this causes some characters quite a bit of distress.
  • Lychee Light Club is a very dark example of this trope. The club's disgust for the ugliness of humans goes to the point of their murdering a teacher (although in Zera's words, "We are not rejecting growth. What we reject is the fact that you haven't died.") But it gets worse, Jaibo sabotages the club and eventually sets into motion the events that result in their destruction because he is afraid that since he is showing signs of becoming an adult, his voice breaking and his beard beginning to grow, Zera will no longer love him. It makes Jaibo a very crazy Bishounen and it may for the best that he never lives to grow up.
  • This trope is a driving force in Loveless and Soubi overtly mentions it more than once when he claims that he dislikes anyone older than twenty. Ritsuka too often comments that adults are evil or at least uncaring.
  • Wandering Son is full of this. Friendships changing, people changing, new feelings occuring, puberty, the whole deal. The main problem is that the two protagonists are transgender and puberty is typically a horrid time for trans people (many have described it as essentially being a living nightmare).
  • A recurring theme in Hayao Miyazaki's films:
    • My Neighbor Totoro, where Satsuki and Mei lose contact with the eponymous forest spirit after their adventure. The credits imply (and Word of God confirms) that Totoro and his friends kept watch over the girls as they grew up, but never showed themselves again.
    • Kiki's Delivery Service, where Kiki loses her ability hold a conversation with her cat familiar Jiji. She initially takes it as part of the larger problem of losing her magic, but when she regains it she finds that she still can't speak to him. The loss is thus implied to be simply a part of growing up. (The Disney translation decided that was too depressing and added a line of spoken dialogue to avert this trope.)
    • Spirited Away, where Chihiro's memories of interacting with the river spirit Kohaku were suppressed as she grew out of infancy. The movie also heavily implies that her whole adventure in the spirit world begins fading from her memory as soon as she leaves it.
  • When Nurse Angel Ririka SOS begins, Ririka's life is great. Her family and friends are all wonderful and she lacks for nothing. Then she becomes a Magical Girl Warrior, and the contrast between her civilian life and duties of her secret life get steadily wider... until finally she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.
  • The point of the "Afterlife" in Angel Beats! is to avert the harsher examples of this. Everyone there had their child or teen years cut short by some tragic event (Yui was crippled, Otonashi had to spent most of his time caring for a dying sister and was unable to accomplish anything of meaning with his life, etc.) and thus was sent there to be able to live out what they originally could not. Upon completion of that will, they would pass on into a new life.
  • In Medaka Box, almost everyone with special powers loses them when they become adults. Subverted a bit in that none of them really care.
  • Shonen Note: Boy Soprano is about a prodigious boy soprano at the cusp of puberty. Yutaka's voice will soon start cracking and he'll loose his soprano abilities. He notes he can still sing but Vladimir (who is also a boy soprano) notes it won't be the same as it was when he was a soprano.
  • Goodnight Punpun has a very dark take on this. It treats growing up as a process of disillusionment for many of the characters, where they lose sight of their dreams, realize ugly truths about themselves, and suffer from personal loss and doubt. This is especially noticeable with the protagonist, who gradually loses his innocence due to the abuse, indifference, callousness and pettiness he experiences growing up and becomes a much worse person as a result.
  • Mentioned in the short oneshot manga Cotton Candy Love. The protagonist says to a young trans girl that she is prepubescent now but one day her androgyny will dwindle. When asked whether she still wants to live as a girl she says "yes".
  • Bokura no Hentai is full of middle schoolers feeling pubescent angst. The fact the crossdresser characters are masculinizing is mentioned several times. It's in fact the reason why Satoshi stopped wearing the girls uniform to school though Tamura eventually convinces him that even if he doesn't pass perfectly he can still look pretty. Marika is a transgender girl and looming puberty is a worry of hers. She isn't on any hormone blockers or hormone treatment apparently and her classmates talk about her behind her back. Hachi was One of the Boys growing up but when she hit puberty earlier than her peers suddenly her male friends were adverse to her. Marika's friend Akane feels stressed because she has no interest in boys until she falls for Tamura and dislikes the start of her menstruation cycle.
  • Ren from Sazanami Cherry is a Wholesome Crossdresser with an Ambiguous Gender Identity. He doesn't like the fact that puberty will hamper his androgynous, girly looks and change his voice.
  • FLCL plays with this. Naota wants to act like a grown up as he sees adults as immature for him. Though eventually comes to learn that the reason they do is because most miss their childhood and it's a way to keep that spirit of excitement alive through the bevy of responsibilities they now have (jobs, families, dealing with relationship issues, running organization, etc). Naota dealing with many of these at his age constantly overwhelms him despite trying to be more mature then he really is. Ultimately the series main aesop is that there's no reason you can't grow up to be an adult and not have fun in the process. Trying to be more mature then you are when you're younger will only rob you of that experience.
    • His third season counterpart Kana has a very contrasting mindset, but it spells out this trope all the same. Her defiance to accept her growing adulthood tends to hurt the people around her, to the point that Pets breaks ties with her before the finale.
  • 10-year old Nate in Yo-kai Watch is a boy who can interact with youkai using his Yo-Kai Watch. As he grew up he found he lost this ability. In Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside - The Return of the Oni King, Nate's 13-year old daughter Natsume and two of her peers are the new owners of their own Yo-Kai Watches.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, this is cited to be one of the in-universe reasons why certain Pokémon, particularly Dawn's Piplup and Snowy (Lillie's Vulpix), refuse to evolve (the other being Pride). In Piplup's case, he'd rather remain in his base stage permanently to preserve his memories of meeting Dawn. Pikachu and Bulbasaur want to prove their worth and strength without ever evolving, while Meowth hates his evolved form. Considering that it's common for Pokémon to completely change their personality upon evolving, it's justified why some of them don't want to change.
  • In the Tenchi Muyo! OVA series, this is why Washu has an young body: having already grown up, gotten married and had a child, she lost both her husband and child to said husband's social status. She was so heartbroken by the act that she willingly used her super-science to change her body back into that of a twelve year old so she wouldn't be hurt again.
  • In Tamagotchi: The Movie, Tanpopo the human girl is nervous because she is going to have a baby sibling, and thus there are new responsibilities her parents expect from her. Her adventure with the Tamagotchis after being transported to their planet by accident helps her get over this.
  • Lapis Re:LiGHTs has Angelica of Sadistic☆Candy. Formerly known as "Ange", she was a Child Prodigy and The Baby of the Bunch of her old group, Ray, one of the best, most popular, and powerful witches in the world. Her main appeal was her "cute, pure, innocence" which she happily played up with a ruffled, fluffy, childish design for her stage outfit, a catchphrase and Verbal Tic specifically made to sound cute, and just generally acting like an adorable child. Then a horrific incident occurs, she finds herself emotionally unprepared to deal with it and freezes up, and later the group disbands for yet unknown reasons. Before the series proper, she goes through a very delayed puberty, drops the name Ange and claims she's a different person as Angelica, and is now known as a Huge School Girl trying and failing to be "normal". This might be best demonstrated by her accidentally using her old catchphrase and people both assuming she's a Phrase Catcher and chiding her for using it as she's not nearly as cute and tiny as Ange was.
  • In Kibou no Chikara ~Otona Pretty Cure '23~, we see that the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 team have achieved their dreams… and they are not what they expected. This hits them so bad they’ve somehow lost their powers.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Played straight at first in Ultimate Spider-Man in which the fifteen year old Peter Parker is told by Nick Fury that he will belong to him once he turns eighteen. For some time he assumes this means he will be a prisoner but when he later confronts Fury, he learns that the man actually meant he will be a member of The Ultimates, a famous team of government-funded superheroes, which obviously means Peter will have a well paying and exciting job waiting for him that will also allow him to keep his personal vows.
    • Ultimate X-Men: Inverted. Bobby envies how Wolverine can come and go, not needing to do any exams or whatever.
  • Archie Comics: Every Christmas, Archie and friends get a visit from a fun-loving elf named Jingles whom only they and people younger than them can see. Because the grown-ups don't believe in Santa Claus and other such creatures, they can't see him.
  • The National Lampoon did a telenovela-style comic "Too Old For Menudo" - we follow a member of the Boy Band who, on the eve of his 16th birthday, leaves the band in accordance with their policy. The next morning he looks to be in his mid-50s, and can't get a singing gig anywhere.
  • Played with in the Seven Soldiers: Klarion'' miniseries. Billy Beezer is about to turn eighteen and graduate out of the child gang he runs with and join his buddy Golden Boy on "Team Red". When he finally turns eighteen, he finds out that "Team Red" is just a myth - he's being sent off by his gang's benefactor to slave away in a mine of Mars.
  • A recurring theme in Runaways, sometimes Played for Drama (the kids finding out that all their parents are supervillains, Karolina and Xavin being forced to reckon with the damage caused by their over-idealistic attempt to end the war between their people, Gert's death, etc.) and sometimes Played for Laughs (Chase gets a job, and is completely oblivious to the fact that his boss is an evil necromancer; Klara begs her way into a game of "Truth or Dare" because the older kids are playing it, and learns the hard way why only the older kids play it.)
  • Harbinger of Crisis on Infinite Earths in a DC Comics Presents story featuring her, Pariah, and Lady Quark laments having to grow up entirely on the Monitor's satellite after being rescued as a child by him, and finding out that she missed out on real life as a normal Earth woman. Apparently she finds herself among friends on Themyscira, spending time with the Amazons until her untimely death fighting alongside them against Darkseid when he was going after Kara Zor-El/Supergirl.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Madam & Eve, Mother Anderson frightens Thandi by invoking this trope here.
  • In Safe Havens children are able to talk to animals, but lose the ability to do so (and forget they ever were able to) as they grow older. There are a few exceptions though: those that never lose their sense of wonder and curiosity (like Samantha), those that essentially never grow up (such as Dave), and veterinarians.
  • One of the most popular strips in Zits has Jeremy's mom grabbing him, unzip his body to reveal his six-year-old self. Then they spend several panels doing whatever activities a six-year-old would do with his mother (but a teen wouldn't be caught dead doing) before going back in his body and zipping it back up. It's an unusual example in that the trope is being applied to the mom about the kid - Jeremy has so far shown no nostalgia for his childhood.

    Fan Works 
  • The main concept of Ed, Edd, n Eddy: 20 Years Later EP is that the Ed's lives are crummy as adults. The childhood innocence of the characters is gone. Eddy's still up to his schemes, but they've taken a darker turn, and most of the cul-de-sac kids are troubled adults.
  • AOK Ruins Your Childhood has a theme of cartoon characters growing into adulthood and realizing it's not fun. For example, Arthur in Adult Arthur is a miserable adult who's forced to move back home due to financial difficulties.
  • Was mentioned as a plot-point in the final chapter of the LDD-fanfic, Bridge to Terabithia 2: The Last Time. In the last chapter, Jess suddenly realize how he's turning 19 and doesn't have a clear goal in life yet, doubtful that his interests in art could last him for a living, while most of his friends already knew what they want to be after graduation. Leslie however managed to encourage him that most people doesn't know what they want to do for a living even after 25, citing how her father didn't write his first book until 29 and it's normal to be worried about adulthood. The Distant Epilogue however reveals that Jess' worries are unwarranted, since after growing up, marrying Leslie and having children, Jess would go on to become a successful art scholar and professor.
  • In Forgiveness is the Attribute of the Strong, a My Hero Academia fanfiction, young All for One travels forward in time and meets himself. Young Hisashi is terrified that he'll grow up into All for One, especially after learning that All for One accidentally killed his younger brother.
  • In Operation: S.O.U.L.M.A.T.E., Sector V considers this to be the case, especially considering that Wally, Kuki, Hoagie and Abigail are unable to age past 10 years old.

    Films — Animated 
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: The theme of this movie is exploring what it really means to mature as a person, and deconstructing how True Art Is Angsty is a narrow-minded view to hold. In its own way, going Darker and Edgier just for the sake of it is just as childish as being Lighter and Softer, if not moreso — true maturity and growth is more complicated than that.
  • Recess: School's Out provides the page quote. When T.J. and Prickly are both imprisoned by Benedict, T.J. angrily accuses Prickly and every other adult of being just like Benedict, not caring about saving summer vacation. Prickly goes into his "The Reason You Suck" Speech and tells T.J. that he and his friends don't know how good they have it as kids and that for the adults, their experiences are just distant memories for them.
  • Toy Story:
    • A touching scene from Toy Story 2 shows this trope from a different angle when we learn the past of Jessie, a toy cowgirl. She started off being Emily's best friend, but as the girl grows up, Jessie is forgotten and eventually donated. Being reminded that Andy will eventually outgrow him is enough to temporarily convince Woody that living on display in a toy museum is better than being loved temporarily by a child.
    • This theme is later taken to its next step in Toy Story 3 with Andy heading off to college.
  • Subverted in The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure. Throughout the film, Littlefoot is constantly seeking respect, trust and freedom from his grandparents which is denied because he is too young. He then tries to raise Chomper, a baby T. Rex as a parent would. After doing this, he learns why his grandparents sometimes forbid him to do things, but he still remarks at the end that he cannot wait to grow up.
    Grandpa Longneck: "Kids. They want to grow up so fast."
    Grandma Longneck: "Yes, and once they do, they wish they were young again."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Baby Geniuses does this by having babies lose their intelligence once they turn into toddlers.
  • Played straight in the movie Toms Midnight Garden, with Anthony Way. The movie emphasises all the drawbacks of growing up, and the way some of the adult characters talk, one would think they were describing some terminal illness. Subverted/partially averted in the book, which discusses the drawbacks of growing up, but also some of the benefits.
  • The most extreme example would be in Logan's Run, where upon reaching your 21st birthday (30th in The Movie), you are sent to your death.
  • In The Purple Rose of Cairo, Cecilia finds love with a film character who leaves the movie to enter the real world. Later, the real actor who plays the character shows up and convinces her to dump the magical character for him. Then, he leaves her as he faked his interest in her just to get her to leave the magical character so as to avoid any harm to his career in having the magical character around.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: John Connor starts to see the Model 101 as a friend / father figure but in the end, has to give him up so the technology needed to make SkyNet can be destroyed. Compounded by the fact that it didn't work!
  • In Tooth Fairy 2, Larry Guthrie urges one of the local children not to grow up any sooner than he has to because of all the things Larry wishes he could still do when he was younger.
  • Subverted in Labyrinth, where Sarah puts away her childish things... which do not include the magical people she met.
    • A little deeper than that. "Should you need us..." Growing up does not mean you abandon the fantasy things you love, but just realizing they are fantasy and you can't let it get in the way of what's important.
  • Another Disney Channel Original Movie, Don't Look Under the Bed, showed abandoned imaginary friends turning into boogeymen. Boogeymen with mouths full of fangs and long, yellowed fingernails that dragged children under the bed and trapped them in the underworld. So... yeah.
    • However, it's stated that usually when kids grow up, imaginary friends find new kids to be friends with, only when they're abandoned before they're ready do they turn into boogeymen. Making it "trying to grow up too fast sucks".
  • In Finding Neverland, James Barrie firmly believes that life is better as a child than as an adult, and tries to stop Peter Llewelyn Davies from growing up so quickly. Given how much more fun James has acting like a child than acting as an adult, he has a bit of a point.
  • The film Hook, an unofficial sequel to Peter Pan, zigzags the trope by showing exactly why, while Growing Up Sucks, it's a necessary part of life. Instead of whisking Wendy's granddaughter away to Neverland, Peter instead chooses to stay in the real world with her, and finally grows up, forgetting his adventures in Neverland and becoming a rather boring lawyer with a family of his own (married to Wendy's granddaughter, natch). He then returns to Neverland to rescue his children from Captain Hook, and has a grand time reliving his childhood adventures, but eventually realizes that he can't get this life back, and his children need him to be a responsible adult. On the other hand, he also comes to a realization that being a stuffy adult is not actually being "responsible", and that he still needs to retain some childlike enjoyment of life (as symbolized by his trashing his cell phone). A clear turning point in his worldview is the happy thought he uses to fly again: the memory of his son's birth. Not everything about becoming an adult is terrible, it would seem...
  • 16 Wishes: Abby Jensen soon discovers this when one of her wishes to be treated like an adult turns her into one.
  • The film Ted averts this trope by having both the title character, a living teddy bear and his thirty-something human both finding that they are both better finally maturing with their own lives to a reasonable degree.
  • The Pćdo Hunt/Too Smart for Strangers Public Service Announcement Tricky People anviliciously features a scene of the character Carmen being in tears over "not [being] a little girl anymore".
  • Neighbors (2014): Mac and Kelly hate the fact that their becoming parents has put a major crimp on their old social lives. Likewise, a major part of Teddy starting the dispute is due to wanting to live in the now rather than face the fact that he has few prospects after college.
  • The Wolverine - Yukio has grown up alongside Mariko ever since they were kids, so when Shingen, Mariko's father, says to her, "You are a toy doll. A companion for a child that has outgrown you," it hurts her deeply. Later, Mariko counters the hurt when she calls Yukio, "sister."
  • One of the reasons why Enid in Ghost World keeps stalling about giving up her childhood possessions and moving on with her life after high school. She is afraid that nothing better lies ahead than a service job at Computer Station.
  • Noah from A Safe Place (1971) remembers that as a child, she could fly. She lost the ability as she grew. She feels that if she could just remember something, she'd be able to fly again.

    Korean Animation 
  • The Korean animated film Mari iyagi (My Beautiful Girl Mari) is about the beautiful Dream Land the main character and his friend would go to to escape their boring hometown as children. There, they meet Cute Mute Mari and a humongous yellow lab. In the dreary, rainy "present" the main character is returning to his hometown to "find something," but he can't quite remember the dream world nor Mari, his first love.

  • 2666: Especially when you're stuck on the Eastern Front of World War II.
  • Especially for the Animorphs, who are trapped in an interstellar war to save human freedom at age thirteen.
  • Possibly Older Than Feudalism. The expulsion from Eden in the book of Genesis is a Growing Up Sucks story, as Adam and Chava/Eve take on new knowledge and freedom, but lose the childlike state of being eternally babysat. And it's been suggested the tale is actually a metaphor for humanity's shift from the animal-like hunter/gatherer life to settled agriculture.
  • One of the most famous happens toward the end of House At Pooh Corner: "Christopher Robin was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away. But somehow or other everybody in the Forest felt that it was happening at last..."
    Christopher Robin: I'm not going to do Nothing any more.
    Pooh: Never again?
    CR: Well, not so much. They don't let you.
  • In His Dark Materials, the changeover from childhood to maturity is marked not with a loss of the child's powers, but that of their daemon — they lose their Shapeshifting ability and remain in one form for their rest of their life. Given that the daemon is an anima/animus of the child, however, this development is directly linked to their bonded human rather than the daemon. Most likely a metaphor for "becoming set in your ways", the lack of prejudice and adaptability children are supposed to have being sacrificed for the reassurance of a firm identity - and this is treated as a joyous occasion by the two main characters. If anything His Dark Materials subverts. The theme of the series is "Growing up has its compensations." Although Lyra does lose the ability to read the alethiometer, and only grown-ups are vulnerable to the Spectres.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Children eventually outgrow permission to visit Narnia, because, according to Aslan, the point of meeting him in Narnia is so they may grow to know him by "his real name" on Earth.
    • Everyone gets to return in the last book, however, because they've died in an accident in their world and arrived in Narnian heaven. Everyone, that is, except Susan, who refuses to believe in Narnia any more, and wasn't with them when they died, though she'll probably join them once she does.
      • Maybe, as Susan wasn't a 'friend' of Narnia anymore because of the infamous 'lipstick and nylons' quote. Two schools of thought exist, one that CS Lewis wanted to punish her for entering sexual maturity and preferring that to Narnia. The offical one was she became shallow, vain and attached to material things. C.S. Lewis himself said that Susan might well get back to Narnia someday; 'In her own time, and in her own way.'
    • Interestingly, in a Truth in Television subversion, C. S. Lewis comments that the desire to look and act "grown up" is itself a mark of immaturity:
      "When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
  • Peter Pan is the proverbial boy who refused to grow up. His Lost Boys remain young and immortal as long as they're with him. (And as long as they can keep from regaining any memories of their former lives in the real world.) At the end of the story, Wendy returns to the real world, grows up and has a family. When Peter Pan comes calling again, he informs her that she is too old to go back to Neverland and whisks her daughter away instead.
    • Peter Pan plays with the idea that, while growing up sucks, not growing up also sucks (your friends leave you, and eventually die; you have perpetual forgetfulness and no family). It's hinted, when the Lost Boys leave, that they would have left at some point anyway; to quote the opening sentence, "All children, except one, grow up." In other words, while Peter urges everyone to stay with him and forbids growing old, no one but himself is capable of permanently resisting age—and, if you look at it another way, everyone but himself is capable of growing up.
    • The original version of the story (Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens) has Peter run off while still a baby and get "raised" by birds (not growing up), and then meeting the fairies of Kensington Gardens, often joining them for playtime after the park has closed. He pleases the fairy queen so much that she grants him a wish, which he bargains down to two smaller wishes. He uses the first to visit his sleeping mother, flying in through the window she always leaves open for him. She looks so sad that he almost wakes her, but then decides to go back to the gardens to tie up some loose ends. But then he takes so long saying goodbye to all his friends (possibly due to the Year Outside, Hour Inside effect often attributed to fairy realms) that when he uses his second wish to fly back to his mother, he finds the window closed and barred, and his mother sleeps with her arms around a new little boy. "In vain he beat his little hands against the panes. He had to fly back, weeping, to the Gardens...." Thus he grew up (got a heart-rending lesson in the consequences for immature behavior) and, as a consequence, was never able to grow up. The last two lines set the tone:
      "It is Lock-Out Time. The iron bars are up for life."
  • Gender-specific Growing Up Sucks - almost every Pony Tale in existence had at least one female character who "grew out" of her love for horses - usually, gender bias is in operation and only the male characters actually make a career out of equestrian sports, while for the girls, their pony is just a "child substitute" they'll get rid of once they discover boys.
    • K.M Peyton was one writer who did this to death, with the heroines giving up horses to become wives and mothers. Generally, the horse is seen as a substitute for a boyfriend. The Pennington/Fly-by-Night series is pretty blunt about it as well - one character reflects that she preferred horses who were wild and unpredictable, and that's how she likes her men. Thanks for that image, Ms. Peyton.
    • A specific example of this is "Jill", a series of pony books written in the 1950s and definitely a product of its time. She's portrayed as a highly capable, intelligent girl with a gift for dealing with horses. Once she leaves school, though, her mentor Captain Cholly-Sawcutt (yes, that is his real name, honest) sternly informs her that she's too old to be playing with horses all the time, and as a girl she'll never make it in the competitive field. To which Jill replies that he's absolutely right, and she'll get stuck in at her typing classes so she can be a "top notch" secretary, the only proper job for a woman. Sigh. It's something of a double whammy, as Captain Cholly-Sawcutt previously offered Jill a job at his stables when she leaves school and the reader is never told just how, when or why he changed his mind.
    • A rather melancholy entry in the Adrian Mole diaries has Adrian pass by the field where his on-again, off-again (very much off at that point) girlfriend Pandora used to ride a pony she now scarcely visits. The implication is not just that Pandora has left behind her pony Blossom, but also her adolescent first love Adrian.
    • Some Truth in Television here, as plenty of girls do give up (or are forced to give up) horses for boys, college, or marriage and a family of their own. Many of them return to the sport later if their time and resources allow it. Some wind up moving to a city and cannot keep horses any more, but go back to riding in midlife. (Plus some larger cities have places — usually parks — where you can keep horses and ride. Grant Park in Chicago and Central Park in New York are famous for this.)
  • In the Mary Poppins book series, everyone in the world is born with the ability to communicate telepathically with animals and to remember the strange spiritual journey which led them to their moment of birth. People lose this ability and forget everything that happens to them in their early infancy once they begin talking. (Mary Poppins has somehow managed to retain both her early memories and abilities, which is how she communicates with both animals and with the younger, pre-toddler-age Banks children.) It's always vaguely implied (and definitely fanon) that while the Banks family and the world they live in is human, Mary herself is supernatural. A popular theory is that she's a fairy of some sort, temporarily exiled from her usual world (which is why she comes and goes from the Banks' lives like she does). It would certainly explain a lot about her, if it's true.
  • Joyfully subverted in Goodnight Opus where the story ends with Opus returned home after his fantasy journey and telling about it to his Granny. Thus informed, Granny finds a Pegasus coming to her bedroom to take her on her own trip.
  • Double subversion: "Robbie", a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, has young Gloria, who gets a robot nursemaid named Robbie. When publicly available robots were the newest craze, her mother basked in the prestige of owning Robbie. However, anti-robot sentiment quickly rises throughout the world and suddenly Mrs. Weston becomes concerned about the effect a robot nursemaid would have on her daughter, since Gloria is more interested in playing with Robbie than with the other children. She eventually badgers her husband into returning Robbie to the factory. Gloria refuses to forget about Robbie, constantly badgering her parents about him. Finally, one day during a tour of the factory, Robbie saves her life. Her mother gives in at that point and agrees that Robbie can stay "until he rusts". It is a double subversion because the story mentions that many years later Gloria had to give up Robbie as privately owned robots were outlawed on Earth, but by then she was grown up and was supposedly not as attached to him.
  • This is often added as an Anvilicious coda to adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and such. Although at the end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the story turns to Alice's older sister who thinks fondly about her younger sibling and how she'll grow up one day and though she won't have fantastical dreams anymore, she'll be able to give other children fantastical dreams and "make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale". It's not so much Growing Up Sucks as Growing Up Is Inevitable But It Doesn't Have To Suck If You Don't Want It To.
  • The Goosebumps book The Haunted Mask II gives the reader frightening and depressing descriptions of how it feels to be elderly. Steve (the protagonist) gets a mind-controlling mask from a creepy party store (the same one that the previous protagonist got her mask from), which has the appearance of an old man. When he actually tries it on, which sticks to his face for almost the rest of the book, he starts to feel like an old man. Being a preteen boy, he is horrified at the personal challenges that he has to overcome in this state. The simple act of walking is exhausting for his frail body, he cannot eat his cereal with his weakened teeth which means that he has to go with oatmeal instead, and the only speech he can muster is mainly composed of gasping and wheezing.
  • J. K. Rowling gave this as the reason for killing off Hedwig in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • Piemur, a boy soprano in the Dragonriders of Pern series, finds that growing up sucks for fundamentally biological reasons — his voice breaks and he loses his central position in the Harper Hall choir, and is transferred into the drum tower (the communications centre for the then-technology scarce Pern) until the Master Harper, Robinton, can decide on his future. While Piemur does remain critical to Harper Hall operations, it's mainly in his later role as an adventurer/spy, rather than as part of the sheltered, music-centred life he'd enjoyed until then.
  • In A Coming Of Age by Timothy Zahn, people are born with powerful telekinetic powers, and lose them at puberty. Adults keep them in line by controlling all technology and knowledge (even reading), but kids can fly under their own power, so it's clear who has the better end of the deal.
  • At first this is thought to be played straight in The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, where two of the main characters desire to become adults so they can have more "power" (in society) and two of the "villains" want to become children because they didn't have a happy childhood. But this suffers a radical subversion at the end, when one of the children becomes an adult and lives happily (even having some years of his life skipped) while the adults who become children found childhood "boring".
  • Partially (and grimly) subverted in Günter Grass's novel The Tin Drum. Three-year-old Oskar deliberately stunts his growth, by hurling himself down the stairs, in an attempt to avoid the horrors of the adult world. He also uses his titular toy drum to shield himself from these horrors. In the end, a blow to the head causes him to age instantly, becoming horribly malformed.
  • Pippi Longstocking doesn't want to grow up, and eats "krumelur" pills to remain a child. Whether or not it works is never revealed.
  • The main theme of Stephen King's IT, along with The Power of Friendship.
  • A staple of William Wordsworth's poetry and philosophy, especially "Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood." He takes Plato's idea that the soul pre-exists the body and says that at our birth we know and understand everything, but we forget it all as we grow older, which results in losing our sense of wonder at the beauty of the world. Sounds depressing, but actually the way Wordsworth presents it is pretty hopeful, since he believes that it is possible to retain childlike innocence and wonder.
  • The Catcher in the Rye is another classic example. The title refers to the main character's urge to keep kids, especially his little sister, from growing up and losing their innocence. He mishears the words to "Coming through the Rye" by Robert Burns and imagines himself standing by a cliff at the edge of a field of rye where children are playing, and if any of them get too close to the cliff, he catches them. In the end he realizes that you can't protect kids forever — but he must not have handled it well, since he's narrating the story from inside a mental institution.
  • The Little Prince is filled with examples of this trope. One of them is the phrase : "All grown-ups have been children, but very few remember."
  • In The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens loses his powers after he has grown-up and fulfilled the prophecy. But it's made clear that adulthood is when he gets to explore the world and find a real identity for himself. The Aesop here is more 'growing up is difficult but necessary, now get on with it'.
  • Definitely a theme in The Thief of Always. At one point Harvey wishes for a miniature Noah's ark, a relic from his childhood, and House promptly gives him an exact, flawless copy. However due to his curiosity he ends up losing it in the lake. He does manage to save a few figurines (or rather, Lulu salvages them for him) from the lake, but as soon as he leaves Hood House they disintegrate. Considering that Hood House is a Lotus-Eater Machine and the lake is where the transformed children are kept after Hood takes their souls... What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? indeed.
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books almost universally end up with an Esoteric Happy Ending thanks to her use of this trope. The children in her books, live dull, dreary lives, until encountering some unusual place, friend, or ability — which they lose at the end of the story, accompanied by a Tragic Keepsake and Anvilicious Stock Aesops.
    • Season Of Ponies, her first book, has Pamela losing almost everything at the end, but her beloved father comes back, and she's retained a vague ability to project a mental song that breaks mental barriers against freedom.
    • Black And Blue Magic ends with Harry running out of the magic ointment that enabled him to grow wings and fly around at night; he keeps a feather.
    • Lampshaded in The Changeling 1970, when Ivy declares that "all babies are born with magic but lose it" as they get older. Martha ends up with a whole tackle box full of her and Ivy's tragic keepsakes after they part over false accusations and misunderstanding, but not before they invent a spell to prevent growing up: Know all the questions but not the answers; Look for the different instead of the same; Never walk where there's room for running; Don't do anything that can't be a game.note 
    • Inverted in the Green-Sky Trilogy (which became the video game Below The Root). Green-sky is populated by descendants of an earth colony, and babies are born with psychic powers they're supposed to keep and improve on as they mature. Here, the entire society was originally designed so that growing up would not suck. The fact that successive generations are losing these abilities at earlier ages is one of the first ominous signs that something is really wrong.
  • Quantum Gravity is a Coming of Age Story for both Lila and Zal, who both go through some serious bad things as they grow up. Malachi wants to protect Lila from growing up. By the end, it's a subversion.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, Greg has a talk with his grandmother where he learns that the ugly truth is Growing Up Sucks. And once you do grow up, all you do is get old.
  • Somewhat averted in Neil Gaiman's short story "Chivalry" where the reader realizes that if you look carefully you can still see the wonder of your childhood through a patina of dust.
  • A major theme throughout The Pale King, but especially prevalent in Chris Fogle's chapter.
  • Prominent in H. G. Wells' 1911 story The Door In the Wall, where the narrator's childhood friend, now a stuffy lawyer, laments over the green door to Eden that he cannot enter now that he's grown up, and as it appears less and less frequently, all the regret over not making the decision to enter the door leads him to commit suicide by walking into a deep construction dig.
  • Lamis, Ikram, and Houd hate leaving the nursery in Dirge for Prester John, especially since their lives from this point on will be determined by lottery and they will likely never see each other, their mother, or their nurse again.
  • In Voyage of the Basset, the Kid Hero Cassandra believes this because of her proper older sister, Miranda. However, it is averted in her father, Professor Aisling, and in Miranda and Cassandra at the end of the book.
  • Dylan Thomas's poem "Fern Hill" ends with the narrator's bitter realization that childhood ends, and that Time may give the appearance of endless summer, but it's just an illusion.
  • Lost Voices: As a human girl, Luce dreads becoming an adult because most of them seem so unpleasant. When she's transformed into a mermaid, she's delighted to learn that she'll be fourteen forever.
  • Throughout Leia, Princess of Alderaan Leia Organa is in the process of going from child to adult, starting the book by ritually announcing her intention to take challenges of the body, mind, and heart in order to formally be considered her mother's heir, and ending the book having completed them and being crowned. Along the way she quickly discovers that her parents are involved with the nascent Rebel Alliance and jumps at the call only to find that Bail and Breha are terrified for her safety and try to protect her by leaving her out of it. Much of the rest of the book is Leia pushing and prying to get involved. When she succeeds she has a sudden sense of grief and fear and a sense of everything changing as she becomes more aware and responsible, and regrets leaving her childhood behind a little. But she knows she wasn't really safe and there's no going back to that sense that she was, so she pushes on.
  • Wayward Children: Adults are apparently too sensible to survive in Nonsense worlds. This is why Eleanor is stuck on Earth: her door was stable and she could pass back and forth at will, so she tried to live with a foot in both worlds to avoid having to leave her family behind. Unfortunately, she was still growing up while she spent time on Earth, and eventually she reached the point where she tried to return to her world and it nearly broke her. Her plan now is to wait until she grows old enough that she goes senile, at which point she might be able to enter her world once more.

  • "I Don't Wanna Grow Up", by the ever-great Tom Waits from Bone Machine, also covered by The Ramones.
  • "24" by Red House Painters.
  • "Grow Up" by Simple Plan.
  • Ever since the Century Child album, lost innocence is a major theme for Nightwish.
    • "Meadows of Heaven."
      Rocking chair without a dreamer
      A wooden swing without laughter
      Sandbox without toy soldiers
      Yuletide without the flight
    • "I Want My Tears Back" mourns the childlike sense of wonder the narrator has lost growing up.
      Where is the wonder? Where's the awe?
      Where's dear Alice knocking on the door?
      Where's the trapdoor that takes me there,
      where the real is shattered by a Mad March Hare?
      Where is the wonder? Where's the awe?
      Where are the sleepless nights I used to live for?
      Before the years take me
      I wish to see the lost in me.
  • One of the most famous examples is Menudo. In order to keep them appealing to young girls, they kept the band members young. They did this by putting a kill switch on all members' time in the band. Usually it was turning 16, but also getting too tall, beginning to shave, or having your voice change guaranteed you'd be bounced out of the band, no questions asked.
  • The song "Puff the Magic Dragon" ends with Jackie Paper growing up and abandoning his imaginary friend, leaving Puff all alone. The official book adaptation by the songwriters addresses the Downer Ending by showing the adult Jackie Paper introducing his daughter to the dragon. On Captain Kangaroo the illustrations used to accompany this song included a big sign — But Wait!!! — at the very end, followed by a picture of a little cave boy knocking on the door of Puff's cave, and Puff embracing his new friend. Bob Keeshan was a genius.
  • The Filk Song "Omoide wa Okkusenman" ("Memories are worth 110 million;" based on music from Mega Man 2) is about the singer's childhood memories, from specific events (eating curry) to more general nostalgia (pictures of him with his friends, and the name of his first crush written in a faded and lost diary), and how they're fading away from him as he settles into the monotone routine of adult life. The animation depicts him as a desk-working salaryman.
  • "In This Diary" by The Ataris
    "Being grown up isn't half as fun as growing up. These are the best days of our lives. The only thing that matters is just following your heart and eventually you'll finally get it right."
  • "Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds
  • "The Logical Song" by Supertramp:
    When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful. A miracle. Oh, it was beautiful—magical.
    And all the birds in the trees they'd be singing so happily. Oh, joyfully. Oh, playfully watching me.
    But then they sent me away. Teached me how to be sensible—logical. Oh, responsible. Practical.
    And then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable. Oh, clinical. Oh, intellectual—cynical.
  • "Back in the day" by Ahmad
  • "Playground in my Mind" by Clint Holmes
    "When this whole world gets me down and there's no love to be found, I close my eyes and soon I find, I'm in a playground in my mind...
  • "Boys of Summer" and "End of the Innocence" by Don Henley
  • "I Wish I was a Little Boy Again" by Lynn Anderson
    "But girls grow into women, and boys grow into men, and the world of make-believe all too soon must end, and I blame that awful change for the shape my life is in..."
  • "Green Green Grass of Home" by Porter Wagoner/Tom Jones
  • "This Used to be my Playground" by Madonna
    "This used to be my playground, this used to be my childhood dream, this used to be the place I ran to..."
    • From her song "Where's The Party?":
      Couldn't wait to get older,
      Thought I'd have so much fun.
      Guess I'm one of the grown-ups,
      Now I have to get the job done.
      People give me the business.
      I'm not living in fear,
      I'm just living in chaos;
      Got to get away from here.
  • The song "Photosynthesis" by Frank Turner has an interesting twist on this kind of subject; the song goes into how the singer has accepted that he's getting older and watching fads pass by and friends grow up. However, he doesn't see what's so great about all the things that come along with being an adult, like mortgages and ditching all your dreams. Although he thinks it's fine if you like that stuff, he'd rather stay a kid at heart. The title of the song comes from him telling the listener that, if all you do with your life is sit around and photosynthesize, then you deserve every moment you waste, just thinking about when you're going to die. The music video has Frank Turner and his band singing this song with a class of kindergartners.
  • "Photograph" by Nickelback.
  • "Life's Gonna Suck (When You Grow Up)" by Denis Leary. It can either be taken in rather humourous way, or a slightly depressing way.
  • "Field Of Innocence" by Evanescence.
  • Subverted by the Barenaked Ladies song "Babyseat" in a way similar to Frank Turner, which says that idealism is not just for kids, even including the line "If you think growing up is tough, then you're just not grown up enough."
  • MGMT:
  • The Offspring's song "The Kids Aren't Alright" shows how a group of childhood friends get all f'd-up after they grow up.
  • "I Won't Grow Up" from the 1954 musical of Peter Pan. Rendered as a cheerily anarchic punk rock tune by The Fools, and by Sloppy Seconds.
  • "Pretend" by Lights.
    Once in a while, I act like a child to feel like a kid again.
    It gets like a prison in the body I'm living in
    'Cause everyone's watching, quick to start talking. I'm losing my innocence
    Wish I were a little girl, without the weight of the world
  • Billy Dean's song "Billy The Kid" is about him wishing he could revisit his childhood and lamenting the fact "there's only so much you can do as a man".
  • Bucky Covington's song "A Different World" reflects on simpler times, with such lines as "No bottled water. We'd drink from a garden hose".
  • The song "Forever Young" by Alphaville could be seen as this.
    Sooner or later
    They all will be gone.
    Why don't they stay young?
  • "Older" by Colbie Caillat
  • "Twenty Years Ago" by Kenny Rogers
  • Doctor Steel's other primary motivation, besides revenge. Sung about in "Childhood Don't A-Go-Go."
  • "Christmas Through Your Eyes" by Gloria Estefan
  • "American Honey" by Lady Antebellum - narrator Hillary Scott expresses the desire to return to childhood and the innocence of youth.
  • Taylor Swift's song "Never Grow Up."
    So here I am in my new apartment
    In a big city, they just dropped me off
    It's so much colder than I thought it would be
    So I tuck myself in and turn my night light on
    Wish I'd never grown up
    I wish I'd never grown up
    Oh, I don't wanna grow up
    Wish I'd never grown up
    I could still be little
    Oh, I don't wanna grow up
    Wish I'd never grown up
    It could still be simple
  • Averted to some extent in the song Those Were the Days
    Oh, my friends, we're older but no wiser
    for in our hearts the dreams are still the same
  • "I'm an Adult Now" by The Pursuit of Happiness.
  • Delta Goodrem and her first albums title track: Innocent Eyes.
    I miss those days and I miss those ways
    When I got lost in fantasies,In a cartoon land of mysteries
    In a place you won't grow old, in a place you won't feel cold
  • Common interpretation of the song "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem is often this. This and the Power of Friendship.
  • "Sugar Mountain" By Neil Young
  • "Shilo" by Neil Diamond, about an outgrown imaginary friend. The narrator begins a relationship with a passionate, creative woman, but she soon moves on, and he calls Shilo to "come today."
  • "Where do Babies Go" by Loretta Lynn
  • A pretty strong element of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up".
  • The Descendents have an album called "I Don't Want to Grow Up". The titular song is a tirade against adulthood.
    You're grown-up, told what to do
    Your suit can't hide the truth
    You're a fool!
    And I refuse to be like you!
  • "Let Them be Little" by Lonestar
  • "Big Girls Don't Cry," by Fergie, is about a girl who leaves someone behind in order to become a woman.
  • "September" by Daughtry is about growing up and losing a friendship/romance.
  • "1981" by Vanilla Sky.
  • "1979" from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins.
  • The friendship at the center of The Kinks' "Do You Remember Walter?", a track from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, seems to have splintered because the two boys went in different directions as they grew up.
  • Donovan has a lot of songs and poems on this theme.
    where did we lose the way to do nothing? somewhere in the childhood wood.
    where has our soft-glow gone? to sleep within our hearts.
    grow up, grow up, grow up — oh dear
    i want my naivety back
    look at the children...
  • The music video for "Bronte" by Gotye, complete with great art. Don't watch without a box of tissues handy.
  • "Stressed Out" by Twenty One Pilots has shades of this. It's about being nostalgic for childhood while dealing with the stress of young adulthood.
    Wish we could turn back time to the good ol' days
    When our momma sang us to sleep, but now we're stressed out
    We used to play pretend, give each other different names
    We'd build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away
    Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face
    Saying "Wake up, you need to make money."
  • "7 Years" by Lukas Graham mostly averts this trope. The protagonist starts as a lonely 7 year old and sings about his life as he grows up. Near the end he wonders if when he's old whether he'll be lonely again or have a large family.
  • "The Happy Birthday Song" by Arrogant Worms is a very negative but cheerful birthday song about how life becomes boring and repetitive the longer you live, and that you will die someday.
  • AJR's "Sober Up" has this as its theme:
    Won't you help me sober up?
    Growing up, it made me numb.
    And I want to feel something again?
  • Kero Kero Bonito regularly addresses this as a common theme in their music, mostly in their first mixtape, Intro Bonito. While they have a consistent sound of innocence and nostalgia, there's usually an undercurrent of anxiety with the idea of adulthood, with some songs also tackling increasingly relevant "mature" topics such as sexism, racism, loneliness and depression, parenting, and death. An excerpt from "Let's Go To the Forest:
    Hey, let's all go into the forest
    Nobody will notice for a while
    There we can visit all the creatures
    Maybe they can teach us facts of life
    Oh wait, the forest got demolished
    When they built the airport years ago
    But we can still go see the ocean
    Cause they put it in a bowl at the mall
    • Its follow-up, Bonito Generation, also addresses the idea of growing up, but is conversely a far more idealistic take, acknowledging that while various troubles exist, it can still be approached with joy and innocence. A few songs even directly tackle "grown-up" activities with an upbeat playfulness, like finding a job ("Try Me") and graduation ("Graduation").
    • A few years later, the scale switched back with Time 'n' Place, which on top of directly dealing with more with more existential and melancholy themes, interlinking comforting nostalgia with an increasingly close and uncertain future, the album is audibly more cloudy and anxious, mixing in their typical MIDI-pop sound with dissonant and unsettling Noise Pop vibes. From "Dear Future Self":
      But I heard all the years'll leave you hurt
      Everyone you love disappears and nothing works
      Please don't say you hate the world
      I hope that I won't
  • Maddie & Tae's "Downside of Growing Up" is fairly self-explanatory, but the song also covers the necessity of maturing and the upsides of growing up as well.
  • "Fireflies" by Owl City is partially about losing your childlike sense of wonder and imagination as you grow up.
  • "Here's To Never Growing Up" by Avril Lavigne is all about gleefully defying this trope and having your youthful energy and love of fun as long as you want to.
  • The message of "Pretty Young" by Nicholas Hamilton, where he admits that even though he's still very young himself he knows life is moving very quickly and he already misses his carefree childhood.
    And I'm still pretty young
    I lose memories just for fun.
    Count friends on just the one,
    Although I rarely see the sun
    I'm gonna miss these days.
  • The theatrical Ska/Punk-Rock band The Aquabats! have a few songs about how growing up can be hard, and how one wishes to go back to their childhood. One song called "Playdough" is about the narrator looking back on their childhood and how they miss the toys that they played with:
    Running through my old life
    Looking for my lost toys
    Where has all my fun gone?
    Now that we're all older
    Before we grow much colder
    Let's all look forward to the new dawn
    An anthem for all lost toys
    Now that we're all big boys
    We'll stand together and sing this song
    We'll sing this song
    It's not too long
    So everybody sing along
    • There's also the song "Pizza Day", where the narrator recounts their school life, and the welfare lunches he ate, spanning from when he started to his time in junior high. In the third verse, the narrator has graduated and is currently jobless and spends his time sitting around and watching tv, thinking about where he went wrong.
    Well, now I'm out of school, and I don't have a job. (You're a slob!)
    I just sit around, all sweaty and lethargic, and I'm just thinking about where it all went wrong.
    Why can't I concentrate on anything but reruns?
    I wish I had some more stability, I wish I had somebody making lunch for me.
    I guess I miss the simple things in life, the thought of Pizza Day.
    I thought it was stupid then, but I wish I had it now.

  • Luna from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues wanted to be a teen faster than other kids, but found that she lost something when she got there- namely, the friendship she had with her best friend Ivy. Instead of playing games and having fun with her friend, she'd hang out with the 'mature' kids and get up to boring activities.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Changeling: The Dreaming from the Old World of Darkness, growing up means losing touch with one's faerie side, and inevitably succumbing to the cold, cruel, dull grip of Banality. Never mind that the world of changelings isn't all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, and that with all the other supernatural creatures out there, life in the World of Darkness is anything but dull for mortals...
  • Engel also has this. Although the Engel believe themselves to be Angels sent by god, the truth is that they are children enhanced by nanites and surgery to be superpowered defenders of the people. As they grow older, it becomes harder to pass as sexless celestial beings, and the brainwashing wears off. So before this happens, the church returns the Engel to Heaven... funny thing is, without all the drugs and hypnotic suggestion, the gates to Heaven look a lot more like a furnace.
  • Shadowrun had the Creepy Child Technopath "otaku", children who could access the Matrix without mechanical equipment. As they grew up, however, they suffered Fading - all those powers went away. Fourth Edition subverted it by revealing that, after the Crash of '64, the remaining otaku found their powers didn't fade anymore - they grew up into the Technomancers. (Fading still existed, but as their version of a mage's Drain.)

  • One of the main themes of Avenue Q, best encapsulated in the song 'I Wish I Could Go Back To College'. The writers even said in the book that they chose Gary Coleman to be a character because they thought he was the epitome of someone who hit the high point of their life when they were quite young and saw it all go downhill afterwards.
  • Into the Woods: The idea of growing up being complicated and often unpleasant, as opposed to a "happily ever after," is part of the musical's Deconstruction of fairy tales. It's best exemplified through Jack (of "Jack and the Beanstalk") and Little Red (of "Little Red Riding Hood"): the former loses his mother and has to deal with the guilt of bringing down the Giantess's wrath on the entire kingdom after killing her husband, while the latter goes through being Eaten Alive (which has barely-concealed sexual undertones) by the Big Bad Wolf and also loses her mother and Granny. By the end of the story, both Jack and Little Red are wiser and maturer at the cost of their childish innocence, and it's definitely bittersweet. It's best exemplified in Little Red's solo "I Know Things Now":
    Isn't it nice to know a lot?
    ...and a little bit...not...

    Video Games 
  • Double Homework:
    • Tamara hates being the responsible one among her siblings.
    • Invoked by Henry when he realizes that he'll be held back a year. He's pretty happy to postpone real life by another year.
  • The Kokiri forest of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is entirely populated by children living with their fairies, watched over by the Great Deku tree, and free from monsters and the issues of the rest of Hyrule, making it practically a metaphor for childhood. Naturally, Link has to leave fairly early on in his adventure. This trope is featured to some degree in the ending, where Zelda sends Link back to the past to give him back his childhood years, but Navi, his fairy companion for the entire journey, leaves him.
  • In the Neverland level of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Wendy faces the same issue of wanting to go back to London that she did in Peter Pan. While Peter is upset about the prospect of never seeing her again, he's even more concerned about her forgetting about him as she grows older, but Sora suggests that the most important memories are never gone for good.
    • Rather ironic too, considering that in the book it was Peter who forgot Wendy after she left. He forgot Hook too, after he killed him.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon has the Eevium Z sidequest. It starts off with a man named Kagetora, who had to give up his goal to defeat the best Eeveelution trainers 30 years ago to settle down with a family and get a job as a cashier at a megamart to make ends meet. He tells you to go find and defeat the trainers instead. The sidequest starts to come to this when you realize what happened to the Eeveelution trainers; The Glaceon trainer decided to give up battling to settle down and live with her family, the Leafeon trainer is trying to maintain her beauty and youth via various treatments but is slowly coming down with arthritis, the Jolteon trainer has forgotten about Kagetora and appears to have Alzheimer's, the Vaporeon and Flareon trainers became janitors, the Espeon trainer remained as a Janitor at the power plant, the Umbreon trainer is chronically ill, and the Sylveon trainer died a year before the game events, leaving her Sylveon with her granddaughter. After beating all of them, they tell a somber anecdote about life and then tell you that they asked how Kagetora is doing. When you finally defeat Kagetora, he thanks for doing what he failed to do years ago and leaves you his Eevium Z. The sidequest shows how life doesn't always go to plan, and shows how one can't rely on Pokémon battling to make ends meet.
  • One of the recurring themes of Kira☆Kira, and the cause of the Genre Shift in the third chapter in some routes.
  • In Fallout 3, if an inhabitant of Little Lamplight turns 16, he or she is forced to leave the relative safety of the caves and go to Big Town, a place plagued by raiders, slavers and Super Mutants. They don't refuse because they have been fooled by the others into thinking it is a great place, possibly intentionally (since they do have scout and foraging groups). The Lone Wanderer can help improve things by shoring up Big Town's defenses, softening the blow... but still, you can learn that the prostitute hanging around in the Megaton bar came from Little Lamplight.
  • In Clock Tower 3, Rooders' powers begin to fade after age 15, which means one would essentially lose their powers by age 20. Being constantly stalked by psychopath killers and "the forces of darkness", growing up almost invariably means you'll be defenseless against them. Considering said stalkers can find out you have Rooder blood and would like to prevent you from having offspring who can fight them back, your life will be incredibly fun from that point on. Did I mention the souls of the people killed by the subordinates will be forever tortured in order to nourish them and make them nigh invincible?
  • Referenced in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, where this is preached to the protagonist by one of the mentor figures... who had spent his entire adult life as an amnesiac hobo. Somehow, he doesn't quite have an unbiased say in the matter. That said, the former hobo knows what he's talking about in this case. Soma, the protagonist, finds out the Awful Truth behind his nature and has to deal with people attacking him to either steal his power or to make him miserable enough to become evil, and they're willing to attack his loved ones either way. Kinda makes you want to go back to being a kid...
  • Used as a throwaway gag in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. When Neptune finds out being in an alternate dimension strips her of goddess status, the thing she's most worried about is the fact she'll start aging. She even comments she knows her body is quite young, but she's got her Hotter and Sexier CPU form to transform into if she needs it.
  • Used as the throughline for a sidequest in the Borderlands 2 DLC, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep. While running a TTRPG campaign for her fellow adult Vault Hunter buddies, 13-year-old Tiny Tina reveals that her diet consists exclusively of crumpets, which the others respond to by trying to offering her a salad. She violently refuses, leading to the Vault Hunters to pin her down and force her to eat some, and much to Tina's own disgust, she actually thought it was tasty. This leads to a confused Lilith asking Tina why she thinks that's a problem:
    Tiny Tina: You know who likes the taste of salads? Adults! I don't wanna be an adult!
    Lilith: Tina, you're talking to three grown people who just collected a bunch of imaginary crumpets because they thought it'd be fun. There's no such thing as adulthood!
    Tiny Tina: I... y'know what, girl? You make a good point. You get to live. For now.

    Web Comics 
  • In Digger, the Shadowchild is forced to admit that growing up hurts.
  • An important aspect of Muko's Character Development in Furry Fight Chronicles is to mature into a responsible woman rather than be a high school dropout who chases dreams and gives up on them at the first sign of struggle.
  • Bug subverts this trope when it reveals that adulthood isn't all that different from childhood (and thus, being young sucks too), but plays it straight with "How to become an adult in three easy steps".
  • In Homestuck, though the majority of events take place on the same day, everyone matures significantly. However, this comes at a cost: every beta kid and troll loses their guardian over the course of the story. When this happens invariably marks the turning point in their Character Development.
    • As Eridan once said during one of his conversations with conversations with Kanaya:
      CA: kan its hard
      GA: What
      CA: being a kid and growwing up
      CA: its hard and nobody understands
    • The Homestuck Epilogues expands on this, where the main characters drift apart and are revealed to not have an iron-tight grip on handling adulthood. John spends most of Candy feeling like his adult life is "fake" and unsatisfying with his adventure (effectively a metaphor for his teenagehood) being over, spending most of his time at home mourning his dad.
  • In a strip from Ronin Press Comics, a father tells his kids the hard truth when mom leaves after putting the boys to bed.
    Dad:Shh! Listen! Boys! Life is going to come at you hard and fast. This is the only chance you get. Stay up all night! Enjoy it while you can! You will grow up before you know it... You'll be at work building credit so you can afford to have food, or school, or even basic human dignity! Your mom will be asleep in 20 minutes! Godspeed!
  • Chainsawsuit parodies the obsession with this trope in "Mopey Awkward Wish Childhood Hadn't Ended 15 Years Ago Comix".
    Guy: If I think about getting older enough I get super depressed so I do it ALL THE TIME.
    Why don't we get to eat ice cream all day? I hope I get fired again.
  • Averted in the xkcd strips Stove Ownership and Blanket Fort. In the former, the grown-up narrator realizes that he now has the power to cook bacon whenever he wants and enjoys it no less than when he was a child. The implication is that adulthood comes with perks.

    Web Original 
  • Done fairly subtly in lonelygirl15: Bree is initially seemingly obsessed with her stuffed toy animals, to the point where they're treated like characters in their own rights. They feature less and less as the series goes on, with Bree eventually admitting that she's probably getting too old for them in "Training Hard".
  • The Nostalgia Critic gives a bit of a deconstruction. Every portion of his life has failed in some way, so he as a child wanted to be a teenager, he as a teenager wanted to be an adult and he as an adult wants to be a child again. The result is that he's come to the conclusion that things just suck in general.
  • Adam Buxton's The Counting Song is a kids' show parody with this message.
    Counting is a lot of fun if you are under four!
    Try again in thirty years; it's not so fun no more.
    You will find that there's a lot of boring things to count,
    Count them, count them, count them,
    You must have the right amount!
    Calories, and speeding points, and pennies in your purse,
    Count your blessings too, because it daily gets much worse!
  • Andale from Stray Ami is a small Lonely Rich Kid wistful about her earlier childhood, when her parents had time for her.
  • Cream Heroes: Kittens Toto and Dodo learn this the hard way when their mother Nana decides they're too big to be nursed and kicks them away. Dodo accepts it but is clearly saddened but Toto isn't quite ready and decides to nurse from Lulu instead.


Principal Peter Prickly

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